'President or Pope first' was a protocol poser
Published 03/01/2010 | 05:00
Who comes first, the President or the Pope, Aras an Uachtarain asked the Government when it sought guidance on who took precedence if there were toasts at official functions.
The query was prompted by a plan by then President Sean T O'Kelly to host a dinner in honour of Papal Nuncio Ettore Felici at the Aras.
"I phoned Mr Kennedy, protocol officer, Department of External Affairs, some time ago and informed him it was possible that the President would be attending, in the near future, a function at which the toast of 'His Holiness' would be proposed.
"I asked Mr Kennedy to inquire as to the position of precedence between 'His Holiness' and 'President of Ireland'," according to a memo signed MW.
"Mr Kennedy informed me today that he had consulted with the secretary and other officials at the department and there was no doubt that the first toast at a function should be 'President of Ireland'."
Two months later, the chief of protocol, Denis MacDonald, proffered further advice to the secretary to the President, Michael McDunphy.
A memo indicates the two men had spoken about the form of a toast to the health of the Pope and that the department had consulted with the Papal Nuncio prior to a dinner in his honour hosted by Minister Frank Aiken.
"We described our practice of having a prayer said by the senior ecclesiastic present and we sought the views of the Nuncio as to whether it would be more correct to continue using the prayer than to toast the health of His Holiness Pope Pius XII in the same manner as we toast heads of state. The Nuncio's reply was that we should toast the health of the Pope in the ordinary way and drop the prayer," McDonald wrote.
"I may mention that this solution was welcomed by us because there were many guests involved who were non-Catholic. In future, therefore, at Iveagh House, we shall follow the practice indicated by the Nuncio."
A note with the memo indicates that at the dinner Taoiseach Eamon de Valera invited the Nuncio to say grace and then invited Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid to pronounce a prayer for the Pope.
When dessert was served, the Taoiseach proposed the health of the President and after that he proposed the health of the Nuncio and Felici replied at once. After the dinner, he then invited the Nuncio to say grace again.